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Well at Work

9 Keys for Working Spouses to Reduce Stress


Two-income families are the norm these days, and with that dual responsibility comes a double-dose of marital, parental, and job stress. But thanks to a recent analysis of more than 400 working couples, in both blue- and white-collar occupations, new light has been shed on how to better navigate through rough waters. Clearly, the overall goal is to be more supportive of your spouse, but interestingly, the impact is far reaching.

Study author Wayne Hochwarter, Ph.D., a professor of business administration at Florida State University, reported that those who had high levels of stress but strong spousal support (when compared to weak support) experienced 50 percent higher rates of satisfaction with their marriage, 33 percent greater likelihood of having positive relationships with co-workers, 30 percent lower likelihood of experiencing guilt associated with home/family neglect, 30 percent lower likelihood of being critical of others (spouse, children) at home, 25 percent higher rates of concentration levels at work, 25 percent lower likelihood of experiencing fatigue at home after work, 25 percent higher rates of satisfaction with the amount of time spent with their children, 20 percent higher views that their careers were heading in the right direction, and 20 percent higher level of job satisfaction.

Says Hochwarter: “When stress enters any relationship, it has the potential to either bind people together or break them apart. Findings strongly confirm this with respect to job tension. What also became obvious was the critical role of communication and trust among spouses; without them, you have a foundation best described as crumbling, even in the best of circumstances.”

The analysis compiled several common characteristics that make up effective spousal support, including:

  1. Awareness of one’s spouse’s daily work demands (i.e., time pressures, lack of resources, deadlines, and supervisors).
  2. Not “forcing support.”
  3. Understanding that communication lines are open regardless of the circumstances.
  4. Recognizing that distancing oneself from the family or lashing out is not a practical way to foster help. In fact, it tends to bring out the worst in others—and even causes the supporting spouse to become distant and act out as well.
  5. Being able to bring one’s spouse back to the middle—up when down in the dumps and down when overly agitated.
  6. Not bombarding the family with complaints about minor workplace irritants.
  7. Not trying to “one-up” one’s spouse in terms of who has had the worse day.
  8. Not being complacent—continuing to work at it. Remaining rational and not automatically casting the spouse as the “bad guy.”
  9. Not keeping a running tab on who is giving and who is getting.

Tags: Stress, Home, Work, Family